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UCLA Baseball: Beat SC! #1 Bruins Face Southern Cal in Enemy Territory this Weekend

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Southern Cal is having a tough season but will no doubt be looking to knock the Bruins from their #1 perch with a series win

UCLA fans would like to see a lot of this over the weekend.
Don Liebig/uclabruins.com

The #1 ranked UCLA baseball team (18-4, 5-1 Pac-12) heads across town to Dedeaux Field to take on their rivals, the Southern Cal Trojans (9-14, 2-4 Pac-12), in a weekend series. First pitch is tonight at 7 pm PT.

The Bruins are riding a five-game winning streak and have won nine of their last ten games, with the only loss being to Oregon State in a game where the Beavers came from behind in the late innings to win. Southern Cal, on the other hand, has not fared so well this season, but will be highly motivated to knock UCLA from its number one perch with a series win.

Last Time Out

On Tuesday night, the Bruins traveled down the 405 to take on the Loyola Marymount Lions. UCLA got off to the fastest start possible, with its first three batters getting on base in the top of the first inning on a Garrett Mitchell single, a throwing error, and a hit batsman. Up to the plate came designated hitter Jake Pries, who stroked the second pitch he saw over the left field face for a grand slam. Four batters. Four runs.

UCLA would score two more runs in the first inning. After the hot-hitting Jack Stronach struck out swinging, Michael Toglia singled, sending LMU starting pitcher Nate Madole to an early shower. Back-to-back singles by Matt McLain and Jake Hirabayashi brought home Toglia and UCLA plated its final run of the inning on a Noah Cardenas sacrifice fly.

After the top of the first inning, UCLA led, 6-0.

The Bruins extended their lead with two outs in the top of the fourth inning, when Toglia singled home Ryan Kreidler and Chase Strumpf. UCLA’s lead was now 8-0.

To their credit, the Lions did not quit, clawing back for a run in the bottom of the fourth inning on a solo home run. In the next inning, the Lions scored two more after starter UCLA Jessie Bergin walked three and threw a wild pitch, resulting in UCLA Head Coach John Savage going to his bullpen. UCLA freshman reliever Jack Filby allowed on RBI single, which was charged to Bergin, but then ended the inning with a strikeout. The Bruins’ lead had shrunk to 8-3.

Both teams scored runs in the 8th inning, both on RBI doubles, resulting in the 9-4 final score.

Nate Hadley (4-0) earned his fourth victory of the season, throwing a perfect seventh inning and inducing three ground outs. Closer Holden Powell threw a perfect ninth inning in a non-save situation.

There was some bad news. Garrett Mitchell was hit by a pitch in the helmet and left the game. Mitchell missed time last season in concussion protocol and he might miss time again this season for the same reason. Mitchell is the second lead-off man to be injured this season with Jeremy Ydens sidelined for several weeks now and is expected to miss a few more weeks with a broken finger, also the result of being hit by a pitch. If Mitchell cannot go, who will lead off for UCLA?

Southern Cal Trojans

Unlike the Bruins, who started Pac-12 play with two home series, the Trojans played both of their Pac-12 series so far on the road. Southern Cal took two of three from UC Berkeley two weekends ago, before being swept by Washington in Seattle last weekend.

To the Trojans’ credit, they did take the Huskies to extra innings in two of the three games, but were victimized by a walk-off sac fly on Saturday and a walk-off single on Sunday, both in the tenth inning.

The Trojans bounced back on Tuesday against the hapless 3-20 (!) Long Beach State Dirtbags, prevailing 8-5 in ten innings. That makes three consecutive ten inning games for Southern Cal.

The Bruins and the Trojans played a non-conference game earlier this year in the Dodger Stadium College Baseball Classic with UCLA prevailing 7-5, after the Trojans jumped out to a 4-0 lead.

Southern Cal’s pitching staff has an average to below average ERA of 4.41 and they only bat .257 as a team, also average to below average.

Tonight, the Trojans will send junior righthander Conner Lunn (2-1, 3.28 ERA) to the hill. This will only be Lunn’s third start of the season, as some of the other Trojan pitchers have struggled in starting roles. UCLA will counter with Zach Pettway (2-1, 2.66 ERA), who has arguably had his best two outings of the season in his last two Friday starts, both of them victories.

Outlook

This is a series that UCLA should win. A sweep would be great, but a series win against a highly motivated arch-rival would be acceptable.

In my opinion, UCLA could be be vulnerable in the Saturday game, as Jack Ralston struggled last week and the Trojans’ Saturday starter this week has an ERA of 0.95. But who knows? That’s why they play the games.

This is your UCLA baseball versus Southern Cal game one open thread. Shout out your support of this team or let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.


Go Bruins!!! Beat SC!!!